NJ students: Monroe Township finds innovative ways to provide opportunities for students

Carolyn Sampson

| MyCentralJersey.com

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Alexander Lewis, Home News Tribune and Courier News

This year has certainly been like no other. Educators have had to find new ways to teach lessons to students remotely. Monroe Township Schools have found innovative ways to continue to provide opportunities for its students. Every teacher and student uses high school Schoology and Google Classroom (K-8) as a Learning Management System. Teachers are utilizing conference tools, either Zoom, Google Meet or Schoology Conferences, for daily instruction. Many teachers use other applications for educational purposes. Two common applications are Kahoot, for learning games and trivia quizzes, and Pear Deck, which allows teachers to infuse interactive assessment questions directly into digital lessons and presentations.

Here are a few examples:

  • Mark Pearce, business teacher at Monroe Township High School, incorporates an online simulation to compliment his virtual instruction in the Sports and Entertainment Marketing class. Since taking over the course in 2019, his students have had the special opportunity to apply their learning and put it into action by participating in a semester-long simulation. Students are tasked with making business decisions to improve the profitability of a professional sports and entertainment stadium. This year, utilization of the simulation helped students to not only apply and enhance their learning, but it also resulted in an increased sense of comradery amongst his students that is sometimes more difficult to achieve in a remote instructional setting.
  • Jessica Strincoski and Allison Murphy, second grade teachers at Mill Lake School, wanted to continue with the rigor and expectations of in-person learning and have implemented many learning techniques during remote instruction. The use of Google Classroom, other Google apps for Education and Zoom have put a new spin on the learning model. Teachers can provide students with immediate real-time feedback enabling them to make corrections while it is still fresh in their minds. Google classroom assists in the transition to 21st century learning in a way that is student-friendly and develops a comfortability with technology for all students. Even though they have not spent much time together in person, students are still able to interact with each other on a social level and develop connections with one another.
  • Principal Erinn Mahoney and Assistant Principal Maggie Fidura at Barclay Brook School have found new ways to share the STEAMaker Lab virtually with students. STEAMaker Lab is a space where students can explore and create. This year students cannot utilize the STEAMaker Lab, but they wanted to afford the students the opportunity to continue to enjoy the fun, creativity, and excitement of the STEAMaker Lab at home. Each Barclay Brook student received a STEAM bag containing consumable materials from the STEAMaker Lab including Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, paper clips, a spoon, and many other materials. Students also received a Bingo Board of activities and were challenged to only use the materials within the bag along with tape, glue, and scissors to design and build the items on the Bingo Board. During the span of the challenge, hundreds of pictures from students were received, and each one was more creative than the next.
  • The choral and instrumental music teachers have had to find innovative ways for students to practice and demonstrate their musical abilities. All groups have been holding virtual concerts, giving students that chance to perform for their teachers, peers, and families.
  • The high school has created a virtual Preschool under the direction of Jodi Silberstein and Christine Scaletti. The program allows the high school students who participate in the Working with Children class to continue developing their skills through the use of Zoom conference technology. The high school students work with the preschool children on numerous instructional activities and educational games.
  • Dave Virelles has gone “old school” with his practices with MTHS Art students. He has transformed his kitchen into an art studio and has become the Bob Ross of MTHS. He has been instructing landscape painting for Studio Art courses over the past four weeks. He started off with some simple sketches and thumbnail paintings to gather baseline abilities for students. The class then painted together using conferences, in what was called “technique week.”
  • Jennifer Hyer, one of the elementary art teachers, had students create virtual art shows.
  • Beth Welsh has created a collaborative folder in Schoology for all of her World History sections to share and exchange ideas. It’s called “Extra Extra.” The folder consists of sub-folders each containing subjects of interest within social studies. Students are invited to submit links to the teacher, via email, of interesting topics for approval. If the submission is chosen, it is published in the folder for all classes to peruse. Student viewers can do everything from taking a virtual tour of the Palace of Versailles to finding out how UNICEF is working to keep children safe in developing nations.
  • Elementary teachers are finding creative ways for students to share work. Nancy Poland’s students at Applegarth School completed a Constellations STEM project out of household items and shared their photos with the class.
  • Olimpia Ciccarella’s class at Woodland School will be visiting with two authors for World Read Aloud Day.
  • Dana DiBenedetto and Casey Valville have found a fun website to review for tests and quizzes. Using “Wheel of Names” keeps students engaged because they never know where the wheel will land.
  • Ross Schultz, physical education teacher, has coordinated a physical education virtual challenge for this school year. Students who participated received a Woodland School stepper to track their daily mileage. Woodland School students have completed their first two challenges to Six Flags Great Adventure (15.3 miles) and Liberty Science Center (35.4 miles). Approximately 125 participants joined this activity challenge. The next location is to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, (56.2 miles).
  • The Hour of Code, an introduction to computer science, is a worldwide movement that takes place in December. Led and organized by Oak Tree School’s Media Specialist John Gleason with the assistance of Bryanna Kirner, Danielle Dowe and Stephanie Kerstetter, Oak Tree held a Virtual Hour of Code Night. Third grade students and their parents worked side by side at home coding through a Star Wars challenge. Participants learned the basics in a fun, interactive way.
  • The third grade students at Oak Tree are learning all about living and nonliving things, and plants and animal life cycles. Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden in Pennsylvania which has more than 1,000 acres of plant displays for people to enjoy. Longwood Gardens is offering virtual field trips live from their experts about many various science topics. The third graders in Kirner’s class had a fun experience learning about plant life cycles from an expert at Longwood Gardens.
  • Middle School students did a fabulous job on their Ancient Egypt Projects. Every year, all of the projects are on display in the PAC. This year, students displayed their projects virtually.
  • Students in Anju Chawla class recently learned about the relationship between forces and motion, interaction of different forces, gravity, inertia, and transformation of energy from potential to kinetic by building a working model of a roller coaster. Students created their own roller coasters at home and shared them with their class virtually.
  • And our club advisors are finding ways to offer students experiences including a virtual play at the middle school.

Hillsborough Township Public Schools

In a year when the need is truly at a premium, the students of Auten Road Intermediate School’s Team 5G, Diane Lyons’s and Kerry MacDonald’s homerooms and Team 5H, Donna Biddulph’s and Elise Newton’s homerooms, challenged each other to collect the most cans of food in the 7th Annual SOUP-er Bowl Collection.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition looked very different this year. About 50% of the students participated in a hybrid model where they are in-person at school twice a week, while the other half learns completely virtually from home. To accommodate this into the collection, cans were not only collected in class, but also through contact-free drop boxes placed outside the main entrance of the school.

Team 5G&H’s families donated 491 food items for Hillsborough Food Pantry. The ARIS Soup-er Bowl victors were Team 5G Chiefs, but truly all the students were winners by embracing this life lesson of giving back to their community.

READ: The good things students are doing in Central Jersey and beyond

READ: Education news from around the region

READ: College Connection: Advice from local expert columnist

Hunterdon County Vocational School

Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD) is celebrating the early acceptances of three of its top female students to United States Military Academies. With these acceptances, these young women, students at HCVSD’s Biomedical Sciences Academy (BSA) and Computer Science and Applied Engineering Academy (CSAEA) have been identified among the top high school seniors in the country.

Audrey Bors, a BSA senior, has received a Congressional nomination to the United States Naval Academy and now awaits official acceptance. CSAEA seniors Alexis Colasurdo and Gillian Cascio both have been accepted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. Colasurdo also received a Congressional nomination to the U.S. Air Force Academy and awaits official acceptance.

Tanya Nalesnik, HCVSD’s director of Grant Management, Admissions & Security and Supervisor of the Bartles Campus, is a retired military officer with 25 years of experience with the U.S. Coast Guard. She said the Congressional nomination process for this country’s military academies is fiercely competitive, especially in the state of NJ. Nalesnik said there are hundreds of applicants in each Congressional district seeking a handful of nominations allotted to each representative.

“Audrey and Alexis were among those successful in obtaining a Congressional nomination for their respective academies against a pool of highly qualified applicants,” said Nalesnik. “Both of them should be proud as they are now among an elite group of highly qualified applicants who not only demonstrated academic achievement, but also leadership skills, physical aptitude and extra-curricular accomplishment. Their strength of character and unending motivation will serve as core values in guiding them through their academic and professional journeys while representing the United States of America’s next generation of leaders.”

Also, as a former college admissions officer, Nalesnik said having three students considered for the country’s top military academies not only is impressive, but speaks to the quality of the HCVSD programs’ curriculum and instruction.

During the summer of 2020, Colasurdo and Cascio both participated — virtually — in the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA)’s AIM (Academy Introduction Mission) Program to gain a better understanding of expectations for the USCGA.

“We are proud not only of these young women’s collegiate achievements, but of their career aspirations to serve as future leaders of our country,” said HCVSD Superintendent Dr. Todd Bonsall. “Their success is the result of a collaborative effort including the strength of career and technical education through our district’s Academy model and the selfless dedication of our past and present staff including administrator, Tanya Nalesnik, who volunteered her time, evenings, weekends, and even vacation time, to meet with students and assist them in pursuing their collegiate and career goals.”

Old Bridge Township Public Schools

Character.org, a national advocate and leader for character, named four Old Bridge Township Public Schools 2021 New Jersey State Schools of Character (NJSOC). Each will maintain this status for a period of five years, through 2026. They are: Leroy Gordon Cooper Elementary School, Virgil I. Grissom Elementary School, Alan B. Shepard Elementary School, and Carl Sandburg Middle School.

Each school’s score sheet has been forwarded to Character.org for consideration in the National Schools of Character program.

Since its inception, Character.org’s Schools of Character program has positively impacted nearly 3 million students, staff, parents, and other community members. Each year, Character.org certifies schools and districts at the state level that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development which has a positive effect on academic achievement, student behavior, and school climate. Schools and districts announced will be considered for Character.org’s highest distinction — National School of Character.

The 2021 National Schools of Character will be announced on Tuesday, May 11, and honored at the National Forum set for Thursday, Nov. 4, through Saturday, Nov. 6, in Washington D.C.

Cooper, Grissom Shepard and Sandburg schools received state recognition, after each submitted lengthy applications, including information regarding the district, as well as individual school’s overview and character education journey.

Each year, schools and districts are selected that demonstrate through an evaluation process their focus on character development has had a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, and school climate. Selected schools are then expected to serve as models for other schools, helping them to achieve the same results.

“We are pleased to announce today the 2021 State Schools and Districts of Character,” said Arthur Schwartz, president of Character.org. “We congratulate these schools on achieving State School of Character designation in a year filled with so many challenges. The educators and parents at these schools work together to ensure that every child understands, cares about, and consistently practice the core values that form the heart of each family and school. We are honored to recognize their efforts and share their inspiring work with schools and school districts throughout the United States and internationally.”

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Hoeker expressed her excitement over the news. She was principal at Madison Park when the school earned the recognition; she also is a former principal of the Alan B. Shepard School, the Old Bridge School District’s first National School of Character, and she has led teams to bring character education to the district’s 11 elementary schools.

“At a time when there is so much uncertainty, it is validating to our staff and students to receive State recognition and recertification for our schools of character,” said Hoeker. “The core values consistently embedded throughout our schools are the foundation that drive our students and staff to do more to serve one another and promote overall well being for the greater good.”

On learning that Cooper School received recertification, Principal Cathy Gramata said, ““We at Cooper are honored to once again be recognized as a NJ State School, and want to thank Character.org for its continuous guidance and support. I want to offer big congratulations to the Cooper students, staff, parents and community, which all work collaboratively to embrace and embody the core principles of character. We will continue to look for ways to build upon our commitment, and look forward to the National recognition.”

Grissom School Principal Anthony Arico III said he was proud to see that the school community is continuing to embed character throughout facets of the school.

“Staff, students, and parents did not rest on its laurels about receiving National School of Character recognition five years ago, rather continuing to feed character and nurturing its growth and development,” he said.

Joseph Marinzoli, principal at Shepard School, said it is an honor the elementary school has been recognized as a State School of Character for the third time (2011, 2016, and 2021).

“The fact that the school has been able to demonstrate proficiency in the 11 principles over the course of more than 10 years since originally being named a State School of Character back in 2011, is a testament to the validity of the values espoused by Character.org as well as to the work and teaching being done every day by the talented and dedicated faculty and staff of Shepard School,” he said. “The values that make Shepard a School of Character have been woven into the fabric of its instructional practices, its professional development, and its community — able to withstand changes of graduating classes, retiring or transferred teachers, and even three different administrators.”

Carl Sandburg Vice Principal Angela Ziemba said the grades 6-8 school is honored to be recognized as a 2021 NJ State School of Character.

“Over the past five years, our teachers, staff, students, and parents have put a great deal of effort into creating programs and opportunities that positively impact student learning and development,” she said. “We are a large school with diverse needs, and are committed to fostering an inclusive community that understands the importance of relationships and connections. While the pandemic has presented many challenges, our #SandburgStrong philosophy is a testament to our teachers’ dedication and our students’ resilience.”

Thomas Edison State University

What do you do when you have a sudden surge of hundreds of Trenton area residents who were prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and a limited number of healthcare professionals to administer their injections? You call in reinforcements.

That is precisely what the Trenton Department of Health did when they mobilized Thomas Edison State University W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing staff and students to help administer the vaccine on Wednesday, Feb. 3, to hundreds of local residents.

“It was a communal effort to be sure and a lot of scrambling in the 48-hours leading up, but the system ran flawlessly once it fell into place,” said Yvette Graffie-Cooper, public health officer for the City of Trenton, who helped marshal the nursing students and staff in administering the vaccine. “The vaccine, which had been in transit to the Trenton Fire Department’s Perry Street location, was stalled in Kentucky during the winter storm, but we managed to receive the 400 doses needed from St. Francis Medical Center an hour-and-a-half before the first recipients began lining up for their doses on Wednesday,” Graffie-Cooper said.

Graffie-Cooper, Trenton Department of Health personnel, Trenton EMS, Trenton Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Trenton-based Internist Philip Bonaparte, M.D., along with Thomas Edison State University and Mercer County Community College nursing program students, their instructors and deans, all fell in line. Those who volunteered in the effort helped to shepherd members of the community through the process of receiving the first of two Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The event was part of a larger initiative by the NJ Department of Health (NJ-DOH).

“Our school is deeply committed and connected to the city of Trenton, and to its healthcare and social service institutions,” said Dr. Filomela “Phyllis” Marshall, dean of the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing. “When the call came in to help with the effort, we instantly and eagerly mobilized our staff and students.”

TESU students administering the vaccines are enrolled in the school’s full-time hybrid (online and onground) Accelerated BSN Program. Students enrolled in the program — notable for its high NCLEX pass rates — remain focused on their courses and clinical experiences during the 12-month academic sprint.

“Those enrolled in the program have made the bold decision to become nurses during a global pandemic; as a result, they represent an extraordinary group of nurse professionals who will enter the local healthcare field,” said Marshall. “This is an ongoing effort, and we will continue to collaborate with the city in rotating students through the vaccination program as the statewide rollout continues. The entire community benefits from this ongoing relationship. Our students and the University have the opportunity to play a vital role in this remarkable public health initiative for the residents of Trenton.”

Union Catholic High School

Abby Granrath was honored as Union Catholic (UC)’s NJSIAA award recipient at the 35th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration, which was held virtually. Granrath, a junior who is one of the top distance runners in UC history, earned a certificate to commemorate her participation in the National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), which featured female student athletes from nearly 200 NJ high schools.

The NGWSD began in 1987 as a special day to recognize women’s sports. The day united premiere organizations and elite female athletes to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports. NGWSD has since evolved into an event to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, the positive influence of sports participation and the continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.

“It is an honor to be named Union Catholic’s NJSIAA award recipient for National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and represent the female athletes in the school,” said Granrath, a Student Ambassador at Union Catholic. “It means so much to me to be represented with the other amazing female athletes. Being highlighted with the other women who I compete against and see throughout the year is a huge accomplishment for all of us.”

“It was amazing to see all of the other women who were in the video celebration who received this award,” said Granrath. “Seeing how much these women have grown and accomplished from when they were my age, gives me hope for my success in the future. It is amazing to see how female athletes have changed over the years to become leaders in their sports.”

Dave Luciano, Union Catholic’s athletic director, said Granrath is the ideal student-athlete.

“First, let me say how proud I am of Abby,” said Luciano. “From the moment she has stepped foot on Campus, she has been such a great model to her peers and teammates. She is a three-season varsity athlete that takes her sport and her studies very seriously. Abby definitely embodies everything that the National Girls and Women in Sports Day represents, and I’m so happy she had the opportunity to represent her school, sport, family and the many great female student athletes we have at Union Catholic.”

U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl

Middle school and high school students begin competing this month in the 2021 National Science Bowl, sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by DOE’s Office of Science, leading up to the National Championship in May 2021.

Thousands of middle- and high-school students all across the U.S. are ringing in the New Year and preparing for the DOE’s 31st National Science Bowl (NSB). They’ll soon be pitting their math and science skills against one another in regional competitions across the country.

The competitions start this month, with each team facing off in a fast-paced, question-and-answer format. More information about specific regionals can be found through the NSB Homepage science.osti.gov/wdts/nsb. A series of regional middle school and high school tournaments are being held across the country from January through March. Preliminary rounds will be held for all regional champions to determine the top 32 teams who will participate in the Elimination Tournament. The Elimination Tournament will be held virtually on Saturday, May 8, for middle school teams and Saturday, May 22, for high school teams.

All regional winning schools will receive $500 for their schools’ STEM activities. The top 32 teams will receive additional funds for their schools, depending on how far they advance through the tournament, with the top two teams receiving $5,000 for their schools.

Wardlaw+Hartridge School

The W+H Model UN Team had a successful showing at last week’s AMUN XXII Conference hosted by Bergen County Academies. A coalition of 31 W+H students represented individuals and countries from around the world. Club advisor Cristian Fernandez saluted his students for their preparation and called the event “a wonderful success.”

Delegates participated in debates and historical simulations on a variety of topics, including the Yemeni Civil War, the global obesity epidemic, environmental racism, indigenous rights, the annexation of Hawaii, the Russian Revolution, and even Star Wars and a possible colonization of Earth by a Mars colony. While in their committees, delegates were tasked with strategizing with other nations and drafting action plans and resolutions to solve complex issues.

Six W+H students received recognition: Michele Peruzzo of Westfield, Raiya Patel of Edison and Aastha Patel of Edison earned Outstanding Delegate for their individual committees and Annie Gu of Edison, Justyn Niemczyk of Westfield and Heidi Pan of Edison garnered Honorable Mentions.

Other W+H students who participated in the virtual event were: Neil Shah of Edison, Shachee Kumar of Edison, Aiden Lee of Sewaren, Tosin Olarewaju of Piscataway, Nicole Sandrik-Arzadi of Sewaren, Aayushi Singh of Edison, Sydney Sweeney of Cranford, Gurinder Singh of Carteret, Nandini Shah of South Plainfield, Gbemi Olarewaju of Piscataway, David Flatau-Jones of Scotch Plains, Anushka Dalal of Scotch Plains, Natalie Chavez of Plainfield, Andrew Wolff of Scotch Plains, Hannah Yin of Scotch Plains, Faizah Naqvi of South Plainfield, Sanah Menon of Edison, Rihan Sajid of Carteret, Luke Tan of Edison, Aum Mehta of Edison, Isabella Rovito of Scotch Plains, Oliver Zhao of Parlin, Zain Zaidi of Edison, Zara Zaidi of Edison and Siddharth Bharadwaj of Edison.

Also: Lower School Spanish students in the second, fourth and fifth grade classes were assigned to report the local weather as an opportunity to use their Spanish in a real-life situation and for them to review what they had studied in previous years.

The young weather reporters embraced this new opportunity to provide information including the day, season, temperature and weather conditions just outside their windows at home. Their entertaining updates allowed everyone to see how much snow fell in different areas during the Monday, Feb. 1, storm. The second grade used Seesaw and the fourth and fifth graders used Flipgrid to submit their reports.

Also: The Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison continued its celebration of Black History Month with events and activities in all three divisions.

In Lower School, where literature will be the primary theme throughout the month, parent guest readers joined authors in virtual book readings. This week’s parent guest readers consisted of Lower School parents Marcella Addison of Avenel, Abby Price of Scotch Plains and Ashley Brazoban of Metuchen, third-grade teacher Katherine Heiss of Red Bank and WHPA president Marci Bowman of Scotch Plains. This week’s author lineup included Rita Lorraine Hubbard, Qjana Davis and Monique Fields. W+H parent April Terrell of Iselin were featured on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

Middle School students began a series of presentations about famous Black Americans during the recent full division meeting. Abigail Ibironke of Piscataway and Anisa Sidhu of Edison shared a recitation from Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Other highlights included profiles of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. Middle School students will continue to focus on Black History through spoken word, moderated discussions and biography presentations.

Upper School students began their recognition of Black History Month by focusing on literature and authors, including Amanda Gorman’s poem delivered at the inauguration. They viewed a special screening of “Hidden Figures” after lunch on Wednesday, Feb. 10, as part of the week’s science and tech theme. The next Next week’s theme is Black Lives Matter and civil rights.

Student and School news appears on Fridays. Email:[email protected]

Carolyn Sampson is Executive Office Assistant for the Courier News, The Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com, and handles the weekly Student News page.

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